Where were the supporters?

It was quite simply a case of
better late than never. On Friday past the Cayman Islands once again joined the
rest of the North American Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association
in having a secondary school’s track and field championship.

A similar meet was staged in 2007
and it is my hope that unlike that attempt this will not be a one-off affair.
Being the last country in the NACAC region to stage such a championship means
that we have a lot to learn in staging such a championship if it is to remain
constant and successful.

The start of Friday’s championships
threw up one of the first lessons that we will have to learn, namely pre-meet
organisation. The championships’ start delay of over two hours was quite simply
unacceptable and had an adverse knock on effect for what was otherwise a fair
second ‘first’ attempt at staging such a championship. The delay had nothing to
do with the schools or the athletes, but with the fact that there was much
confusion and disorganisation in printing and disseminating to the relevant
parties information that was necessary before the meet could properly start.

Apart from making the championship
end well beyond its scheduled close, the lengthy delay also led to some
athletes not competing in their events as their teachers, who accompanied them,
had to or chose to leave at a time in keeping with the scheduled end of the
meet. This brings into sharp focus the second lesson that needs to be learned
and acted on quickly.

The Sports Department and Coach
Williams in particular must be commended for leading the charge in staging
these championships but if they are to ultimately succeed the schools must themselves
become proprietors of the meets. This is nothing new. This is what happens in
the rest of the region. It even happens here in the Cayman Islands. The most
efficient, well-attended and highly supported track and field meet in the
Cayman Islands remains the inter-primary championships. It is owned by and
organised by the primary schools themselves and much of its success is as a
result of this fact. The same needs to be done for the inter-scholastic championships.
The Sports Department, the CIAA and any other body involved must play the role
of supporting cast but not that of owners of the meet.

This will make the meet meaningful
to the schools and ensure their support. A track and field meet is not merely
about the athletes. Athletes do not participate at such meets merely to meet
and greet each other. For them to give of their best in championships of this
nature they need the support of spectators and in particular loud vocal support
of their school, teachers and students, but especially students. This is what
provides a true championship atmosphere.

Sadly, as was the case in 2007,
this was again missing from this year’s championships. A workable formula must
be found by the schools, the organisers and the Department of Education to make
this happen otherwise the meet will become stagnant, ineffective and ultimately
meaningless to all but the diehard track and field fan.

Consideration needs to be given as
well to the structure of the meet. It was simply too many events for a one-day
meet. Athletes were not being given enough time to recuperate and the attention
span of those officiating was tested to the maximum. This led to the meet
having, aesthetically, a fee of organised chaos as the organisers scrambled to
move bodies in place and ushered competitors from one event to another. A
championship of this nature is quite properly a two-day meet – ala the inter-primary

Having said all of that from what I
was able to see, the athletes by and large gave creditable performances and the
organisational problems displayed at the meet can be attributed to labour pains
from years of gestation. Hopefully now that that the child has been born those
in charge of its care will put into place all necessary support to ensure it
lives a long and fruitful life, ensuring the continued support of Maples and
other public minded corporate entities.

H. Delroy Murray